By Abbey Foard
Mary. Theotokos. Mother of God. Mother of the Church. The new Eve. Blessed. Who is this woman? And what does she have to share with us, the Church? Can we receive her message as both Catholics and Protestants? The New Testament declares that all generations will call this humble woman blessed. Do we? Must we?
I’ve been drawn to Mary for a long time. As a young Lutheran girl, I came across a pencil sketch of her on the front of a church bulletin. Something about the image gripped me. It depicted her pregnant, a lamb by her side, with face and hands opened upward to heaven. I’ve held onto the picture to this day, for when I saw it, a chord resonated within; as a woman she modeled something I wanted to become.
She was open, surrendered, receptive in spirit. And in body she was fruitful, bringing forth Life. Her witness called to me prophetically—to emulate her womanhood, living in surrender to the Spirit and offering my body to His creative will for my life.
Before our Divine Initiator—Father God–we are all “feminine.” Men and women alike are called to posture themselves in an open receptive stance, responding to His form and direction. Mary teaches us all how a bold and trusting “yes” can change the course of human history. Mary shows us the heights to which we are called.
This humble handmaiden likely had no idea what her open-hearted surrender could bring forth. Her surprise at Gabriel’s annunciation that she would birth the Son of God—as a virgin—reveals no foreknowledge of her unique call. Truly, God had a vision for her greater than what she could have asked, thought, or imagined (Ephesians 3:20).
Last month I traveled with Andrew and Marco to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin. It consisted of a beautiful chapel and artistic reflections on Mary, tucked away in a forest. We met others who loved Jesus and who, like us, wanted more of Him.
I prayerfully walked some wooded trails and came upon a series of painted ceramic tiles—in this case, something called a rosary walk. Simply put, the trail was marked by depictions/ meditations on moments of the “God story.” It includes everything from the annunciation to Jesus’ crucifixion, His presentation in the temple to His agony in the garden.
The last “mystery” was framed as “glorious”: Virgin Mary, resplendent in white robes with Father, Son and Holy Spirit crowning this “blessed one.” Was I ready for “The Coronation of the Virgin Mary”?
My initial response was to recoil. Ugggh… “Where is that in scripture?” My Protestant heart was crying! I walked away slightly reactive, thinking: “Why does this otherwise lovely trail have to go there? All the other pictures were worthy meditations on the stages of Jesus’ life and death.” This “Coronation of Mary” business? I wasn’t so sure…
As I walked away, I felt a slight rebuke from the Holy Spirit–a nudge not to dismiss this so quickly. I opened my heart to greater reflection and the Lord invited me to consider my negative reaction. Why did it trouble me to consider the Trinity celebrating Mary’s unique role in their family with fullness of joy? Why was I offended that the Trinity invited her into such a high place where the humble maiden seemed to share in intimate glory with them?
The Lord hit me with a gut punch. “Abbey,” I felt Him say, “it is not that Mary should be ‘brought back down,’ but instead that you—a member of my Church—should arise! She is showing you the glory to which you are called! Why do you want to bring her down? Do you reject your own calling to follow her footsteps into this glory?”
May we honor Mary for showing us the humble path to fullness of life. She always points us to her Son and the redemption He offers. She never steals glory from Jesus—she reflects it! As we encounter her love, we encounter the One who radiates Love through her. And we receive it through her beautiful maternal nurture. Mary, in her humanity, shows us the glorious communion with the Triune God to which we will one day be elevated. When she touches us, we are touched by the glory God has given her, this most blessed one!